LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has claimed the UK was “misled” over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and the IraqWar was unjustified.The former prime minister, who was chancellor when the decision to go to war in 2003 was made, has revealed top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over the dictator’s destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.
He claimed only after leaving office did he become aware of “crucial” papers held by the US Department of Defence and believes the course of history could have been different had the information been shared. Mr Brown said: “When I consider the rush to war in March, 2003 – especially in light of what we now know about the absence of weapons of mass destruction – I ask myself over and over whether I could have made more of a difference before that fateful decision was taken.
“We now know from classified American documents, that in the first days of September 2002 a report prepared by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s director for intelligence landed on the desk of the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Commissioned by Rumsfeld to identify gaps in the US intelligence picture, it is now clear how forcibly this report challenged the official view. If I am right thatsomewhere within theAmerican system the truth about Iraq’s lack of weapons was known, then we were not just misinformed but misled on the critical issue of WMDs”.
“Given that Iraq had no usable chemical, biological or nuclear weaponsthat it could deploy and was not about to attack the coalition, then two tests of a just war were not met: war could not be justified as a last resort and invasion cannot now be seen as a proportionate response.”
He added some form of international action was appropriate due to Saddam’s continued failure to comply with UN resolutions. The UK was part of the coalition led by the US which invaded Iraq afterAmerican president George W Bush and Tony Blair accused the dictator of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having links to terrorists. As chancellor, Mr Brown said his only official role wasto find fundsfor the war.After an inquiry lasting seven years, the Chilcot Report found the former Iraqi dictator posed “no imminent threat” at the time of the invasion of his country in 2003, and the war was unleashed on the basis of “flawed” intelligence. MrBrown saidBritish intelligence which he and Mr Blairsaw in 2002 suggested a capability, if not a production programme, of weapons of mass destruction. However, the top-secret US report issaid to have conceded that knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme was based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence. In his latest book My Life, Our Times – due for release on Tuesday – Mr Brown claims the papersuggested previous assessmentsrelied “heavily on analytic assumptions” ratherthan hard evidence and even refuted the country’s capability to create weapons of mass destruction.
He added: “I was told they knew where the weapons were housed. I remember thinking at the time that it was almost as if they could give me the street name and number where they were located.”It is astonishing that none of us in the British government ever saw this American report.” One month after Rumsfeld’s confidential paper, President Bush went on record for the first time with the assertion that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons” and was “seeking nuclear weapons”. It is not known who – if anyone – in the US administration had seen the dossier. Was to resign Gordon Brown revealed he would have had “no choice” but to resign as prime minister in October 2008 if his plan to rescue the banking system failed. In an extract from his new book, My Life, OurTime, Brown recalls the tension in Downing Street as he and histeam realised how close the financialsystem was to collapsing. After deciding to commit billions of pounds to save banks, including RBS, the former prime minister write about how he did not know ifit would work.
“I went to bed at midnight on Tuesday, 7 October, with my mobile phone next to me in case of any further disasters,” he said. Loosing eye sight Gordon Brown described the dramatic moment he feared he would lose hissight completely. He had been left blind in one eye and suffered a loss of vision in the other after a blow to the head in a teenage rugby match. In an extract from his memoir, My Life, Our Time, he describes how in Number 10, four decades on, he suffered a sudden deterioration in his good eye. “When I woke up in Downing Street one Monday in September (2009), I knew something was very wrong. My vision was foggy,” he writes. “That morning, I was to visit the City Academy in Hackney to speak about our education reform agenda. I kept the engagement, doing all I could to disguise the fact that I could see very little – discarding the prepared notes and speaking extemporaneously.”
As soon as the event was over, Mr Brown was driven to the consulting room of a prominent surgeon at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. “To my shock, in examining my right eye, he discovered that the retina was torn in two places and said that an operation was urgently needed. He generously agreed to operate that Sunday,” he writes. On his way out, Mr Brown asked if an old friend, Hector Chawla, who had treated him in the past, could be invited to give a second opinion. He saw him the day the operation was due to take place. “I was already prepared forsurgery when he examined me and said he was convinced that the tears had not happened in the past few days. They were not new but longstanding,” Mr Brown writes. “His advice was blunt.There was no point in operating unless the sight deteriorated further. Laser surgery in my case was more of a risk than it was worth.”
Mr Brown – who did not even let on to Cabinet colleagues what he was going through – says he feels “lucky beyond words” that the retina has continued to hold. “Even if I felt fate had dealt me a hand I would not h a v e chosen, my time in and out of hospital – and the fight for my eyesight – gave me a perspective that I still feel helps me to be more understanding of difficulties facing others in a far worse position than me,” he writes.